Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Irish General Election 2020: Latest Polls in Final Week


To be fair, perhaps Jody Corcoran in his latest article in the Irish Independent had not seen the results of the overnight Red C poll which had FF and SF neck and neck on 24% and FG trailing behind on 21%. Either way, he has his calculations seriously askew and from that makes some further bizarre predictions and suggestions.

So if you are using his political analysis as an election barometer, thread carefully, because it is laden with outright inaccuracies, deliberate or not, and the usual 'Indo' editorial biases. Clearly Mr. Corcoran has made up his mind what type of government he wants and the rest of us are getting it whether we like it or not!

In order of likelihood, the choices are: Fianna Fail, the Greens, Labour (possibly Social Democrats) and a handful of Independents either within or without the Government: In other words, a centre to centre-left Government.

And then he goes on to suggest....

Let us make that more simple: if Fianna Fail wins 60 seats and the Greens and Labour 20 between them, then that will be the new Government, with a buffer of three or so Independents support them based on individual deals.

Considering FF are somewhere in the mid 20% (24-26%), I have no clue how Corcoran can extract 60 seats from that figure. Equally, Labour are somewhere in the 4-6% ballpark. Any party on that kind of figure has no hope of returning more than a handful of seats, let alone securing 10+ seats. If the Green Party are also to meet such heady heights (double figure seats), they will have to smash through the 10% ceiling. This is the ceiling where seats returned start to significantly exceed your overall percentage share, particularly if your candidates are concentrated in the Dublin constituencies. In other words the Green Party would have to return 15+ seats and while they will surge I simply don't see them getting close to that kind of return.

It's the same reason why a party like FF or FG with 25%+ can return 50+ seats or more. The higher your percentage share means your seat returns rise exponentially. They have the vast national spread of candidates throughout the country compared to Sinn Fein's 40+ candidates. It's also the reason why Sinn Fein's lack of candidates this election has left political strategists baffled. Clearly SF themselves greatly underestimated how far they could break the 20% ceiling.

But Corcoran is spot on on one thing about Sinn Fein.

This is not to say that Sinn Fein support will fall back as then from 20pc to 13.8pc of the vote, but in my view it will find it difficult to breach the 20pc barrier in this election, nor will it win the number of seats its still good performance should deliver. Not this time anyway.

Yes, Sinn Fein's vote has swung erratically election to election, and notoriously struggles to convert percentage share to actual seats. Either Corcoran is ignoring recent polls that show the party consistently well above 20% or he is correct that it will once again come down to a lack of voter conviction as to where they place their number one and transfer preferences.

We will know the answer to that sometime late next Sunday evening. By then we will also have the more solid and accurate exit polls.

Corcoran's FF/Green/Labour coalition of 80 seats, at best, is somewhat fanciful.

His second prediction is that of a Fine Gael/Sinn Fein coalition or supply and support alliance (perhaps with additional minor party support). We are moving from the fanciful to the outright preposterous!

But throw in "new friends" the Greens and, well then, maybe; and old friends Labour, or both. It is worth recalling, as we reported last year, that Fine Gael has privately polled the public's view on a Fine Gael, Sinn Fein and Labour Government.

Frankly, Corcoran seems to have Labour on the brain!

But let's get back to reality.

There is zero indication that either of the two main centre right parties are going to break the 30% threshold or even get near it. Traditionally, as election day nears, figures tighten. The 'don't knows' finally make up their minds.

Perhaps Corcoran in his analysis might have been better to ask the more pertinent question which may have elucidated a far more acute analysis - if Sinn Fein as a party is going to make significant gains and push well above the 20% ceiling, where are those votes coming from?

Time will tell, but my own analysis suggests it is not where the public perception and media seem to be suggesting it is coming from. That is - from the two main parties. I'm sorry, but core FF/FG voters don't do SF. That is not where their transfers go.

Remember that meme graphic I shared last week, cataloging the successive parties in Irish governments since 1937?

Irish voters have a long history of shifting sands rather than seismic waves of political change. In other words, if FG can't fix it, let's try FF again. As a nation, we've been doing the same thing for decades. We talk and reminisce about our political and cultural history a great deal. But at heart, we are still locked into two-party conditioning.

In other words, what FG leaks, FF mops up - to you, to me, to you, to me.... And the Green Party push is likely coming from new young voters entering the political system.

So, the question once again, where is Sinn Fein getting those extra votes if it happens?

Most likely, the left-field minor parties and independent candidates, and old hardcore Labour and Workers Party voters. In recent elections, we've seen a slight shrinking of the individual independent candidates as minor parties are formed or small alliance blocks. I think over recent years it is why (outside of core Sinn Fein voters), their vote share has been so volatile.

As yet, party leader Mary Lou McDonald has seemed reluctant to form left-wing alternatives and alliances. Indeed, it is one of the reasons that SF detractors have claimed that the party is less left-wing, more centre-socialist in manifesto.

As parties move closer to tangible government, there is always the side-shift closer to the centre. McDonald will be mindful of what happened the Green Party and Labour in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s when they entered government. In short, the two main centre-right parties were once again let off the hook, and its minor coalition parties in government were utterly annihilated at subsequent elections.

In conclusion, I must disagree and differ with what Jody Corcoran's two main electoral outcomes will deliver from the voters.

Most likely....

1. As you were... voters will reluctantly return FF marginally ahead of FG and we will reenter another supply & support government. But this time FF will be in the driving seat. In other words - two cheeks, same arsehole.

2. SF will manage to hold some of that surge and just about pip FG as second seat party. In other words, voters will punish FG more than expected in losses and say: okay, SF, get off the fence, you have one chance - prove yourself in government and be the tail wagging the dog. But that is they key. FG will have to suffer such seat losses that even propping up a FF minority government is simply not viable.

Unless the polls are completely wrong, old habits are broken, I don't see FF/FG suffering the degree of rejection and annihilation that would bring SF to the fore with just 40+ electable candidates as a dictating government party. FF/FG would have to hemorrhage so many first preferences and transfers to the minor parties to remotely leave SF as a lead party in government formation.

As I've suggested before... change doesn't come overnight or in one single election. It is a long process of subsequent elections. A good election for SF would be to become the main opposition party. Build on that and don't make the mistake you made next time by not running at least 50+ candidates.

Ultimately the voters decide. But in politics, as always, you don't always get the government you decide.


I still can't fathom what Corcoran was smoking when he wrote his piece, but here are the 2016 election percentages and seats won. There is simply no mathematical way any party can attain 60 seats on 25%. The party would need to be in the low 30% bracket to achieve that. Perhaps he is a closet FF fanboy or maybe he just thought no one would statistically fact-check his piece. But this is the problem with many mainstream political media pieces - misguided opinion dressed up as critical analysis

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